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Trends in Higher Education: Student Access


The Master Plan at 50: Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts--Coordinating Higher Education in California

January 28, 2010 - California’s approach to coordination of the state's higher education system over the past 50 years has been indirect, resting mostly on well–defined missions and eligibility pools to guide the development of higher education institutions. This approach worked well during several decades of expansion, producing arguably the greatest higher education system in the world. The effectiveness of this approach has declined over the last quarter century, however, and institutions have been left to pursue their separate interests with insufficient mechanisms to advance the state’s priorities. This report examines the need for a systemwide approach to planning and coordination of California’s system of higher education, and proposes strategies for improvement.


[PDF] CPEC: A Review of Its Mission And Responsibilities

January 1, 2003 - Supplemental report language (SRL) of the 2002-03 Budget Act directed the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) to convene a working group to (a) reexamine the California Postsecondary Education Commission’s (CPEC) statutory responsibilities; (b) identify ways that the commission can effectively perform its responsibilities within its budgeted resources; and (c) consider recommendations put forth by the Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education related to current CPEC functions and the development of a successor agency. This report presents the primary issues identified by the working group and the relevant findings and policy options discussed.


The Master Plan at 50: Assessing California’s Vision for Higher Education

November 12, 2009 - Almost 50 years ago, the state of California adopted a visionary plan for higher education that sought to forge the state’s colleges and universities into a coordinated system, founded on core principles and directed toward specified goals. Adherence to that vision has been uneven over the past five decades, while changes in demographics and the economy have caused the state’s educational needs to evolve. The 50th anniversary of the Master Plan thus presents a timely opportunity for policymakers to take stock of California’s higher education system in light of current and projected needs and priorities. In order to assist the Legislature in such an effort, our office is launching a series of publications examining key aspects of higher education policy and funding. The series is designed to frame key issues for legislative consideration, and assist in the refinement of higher education goals and policies. This report provides an overview of the series.


[PDF] The 2015-16 Budget: Higher Education Analysis

February 27, 2015 - In this report, we provide an overview of the Governor’s higher education budget. We then review the segments' performance in certain key areas and assess the degree to which the segments require enrollment growth funding, base funding increases, and facilities funding. We find the segments have improved performance in some areas but additional improvement is needed. We find little to warrant additional enrollment growth at UC and CSU, and available data indicate CCC likely will not use all the growth funding provided in 2014-15. We recommend against unallocated budget increases, instead recommending that the Legislature link base increases to a cost-of-living adjustment and any additional increases to specified state priorities. We review several facility proposals and make various related recommendations, including recommending the Legislature establish state facility priorities and require the segments to submit a report describing how they plan to eliminate their maintenance backlogs.


The 2021-22 Budget: California Community Colleges

February 16, 2021 - This report analyzes the Governor’s major budget proposals for the community colleges, covering base apportionments, enrollment, students’ basic needs, online tools, apprenticeships and work-based learning, instructional materials, and faculty professional development.


Maintaining the Master Plan's Commitment to College Access

February 13, 2004 - The expressed goal in current law is that all Californians should be afforded the opportunity to receive a college education. The Master Plan for Higher Education, originally adopted by the Legislature in 1960, has served as the state's higher education roadmap. This report describes the state's admissions policies and practices, and assesses how they relate to the Master Plan. While we conclude that the Master Plan's commitment to access can be maintained even in the current fiscal environment, this will require some adjustments in current policies and practices.


[PDF] Assessing UC and CSU Enrollment and Capacity

January 19, 2017 - Chapter 22 of 2015 (SB 81, Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review) requires our office to assess whether the state should construct new University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU) campuses, taking a statewide perspective for UC and a regional perspective for CSU. In making our assessment, the legislation requires our office to consider a variety factors, including enrollment demand and capacity. We project university enrollment over the next eight years based on existing state policy and growth in the state's public high school graduates. In 2024-25, we project UC will enroll 11,000 more resident students (5 percent) than in 2016-17. We find the system could accommodate at least triple that amount of growth by increasing use of its existing facilities and constructing new facilities according to its already developed long-range plans. We project CSU enrollment in 11 regions across the state, with projected growth totaling 15,000 students (a 4 percent increase) in 2024-25 over 2016-17 levels. We find the system could accommodate more than 200,000 additional students by increasing use of its existing facilities and constructing new facilities according to already developed long-range plans. Given UC and every CSU region could accommodate projected enrollment through current or planned capacity, we conclude that new campuses are not warranted at this time.


Improving Higher Education Oversight

January 6, 2012 - Supplemental report language approved in the 2011 legislative session seeks the LAO's recommendations on the structure and duties of a statewide higher education coordinating body for California. The state currently has no coordinating body, following the Governor’s veto of funding for the California Postsecondary Education Commission in the 2011-12 budget. This report finds a need for robust and deliberate state oversight that enables policymakers to monitor how efficiently and effectively the postsecondary system is serving the state’s needs, and to make changes to improve its performance. This report includes both longer-term recommendations for creating a new state oversight structure as well as interim steps the Legislature could take to help guide the state’s postsecondary policy in the absence of a new agency. In the accompanying video, the LAO's Steve Boilard and Judy Heiman discuss the topic further.


The 2024-25 Budget: California Community Colleges

February 21, 2024 - In this brief, we analyze the Governor’s budget proposals relating to community college enrollment, apportionments, and nursing education. In addition, the brief provides a number of recommendations and options to help the Legislature address the large gap between current community college spending and available Proposition 98 funding.


The 2017-18 Budget: Higher Education Analysis

February 16, 2017 - In this report, we analyze the Governor's higher education budget proposals. Our many recommendations for consideration by the legislature include: providing base increases for the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU), and California Community Colleges (CCC); improving implementation of existing student support programs before expanding upon other initiatives being put forward by the administration and other segments; and asking the administration to provide certain additional information about the CCC guided pathways and CCC Chancellor’s Office staffing proposals during spring budget hearings.


Funding Enrollment Growth at UC and CSU

March 28, 2006 - Year-to-year changes in the state’s higher education costs are greatly influenced by changes in student enrollment levels. Each year as part of the annual budget process, the Legislature must determine (1) how many additional students will enroll at the University of California and the California State University and (2) how much it will cost to serve those additional students. This report reviews factors that influence enrollment growth and the current methodology of calculating the “marginal cost” of serving additional students. Specifically, for 2006-07, we recommend, first, funding 2 percent enrollment growth at UC and CSU and second, revising the current methodology for calculating the marginal cost of enrolling an additional student, in order to more accurately budget for these expenses.


Interim Evaluation of Community College Basic Skills Transformation Grants

December 5, 2019 - Chapter 22 of 2015 (SB 81, Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review) created a Basic Skills Transformation Grant initiative to improve basic skills education at the community colleges. The legislation directed our office to submit an interim evaluation by December 1, 2019 and a final evaluation by December 1, 2021. This brief fulfills the interim reporting requirement.


The 2019-20 Budget: Creating an Integrated Education Data System

May 6, 2019 - In this brief, we provide (1) background on the state’s education data systems and past efforts to connect them, (2) describe the Governor’s proposal to develop an integrated education data system, (3) assess the proposal, and (4) make associated recommendations.


[PDF] The 2014-15 Budget: Analysis of the Higher Education Budget

February 12, 2014 - This report analyzes the Governor’s 2014-15 higher education budget. We continue to have serious concerns with the Governor’s approach to funding the universities, particularly as it significantly diminishes the Legislature’s role in key budget decisions and allows the universities to pursue segmental over state interests. We recommend the Legislature take an alternative approach that: (1) designates funding for specific purposes (including enrollment at the California State University and debt-service payments), (2) shares cost increases among the state and students, and (3) monitors the universities’ performance in specific areas (such as student success). We think the Governor’s approach to funding the community colleges is much better but recommend various ways for the Legislature to refine specific community college proposals. Most notably, rather than augmenting a single student support categorical program by $200 million, we recommend the Legislature consolidate seven student support programs into a block grant, thereby offering colleges considerably more flexibility in deciding the best ways to support their students.


[PDF] The 2020-21 Budget: Higher Education Analysis

February 20, 2020 - In this report, we analyze the Governor’s higher education budget proposals. Similar to last year, these proposals are wide ranging—including large base increases; targeted increases for apprenticeship programs and food pantries; one-time initiatives relating to extended education programs, work-based learning, faculty diversity, and animal shelters; and many facility projects.